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Putting a Human Face on an Alleged Drospirenone Statistic

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Washington, DCThe similarities between various drospirenone-based contraceptives in the Bayer birth control quiver suggest that the lines are blurred between products such as Yaz, which has been linked by some studies to a higher risk for blood clots, and Beyaz, which is essentially Yaz with added folate. “Folate lowers the risk of having rare neural tube birth defects in a pregnancy occurring during Beyaz use or shortly after stopping,” states a Beyaz web page devoted to both Yaz and Beyaz. Such a web page, and the similarity of the names of the product itself, with “Yaz” forming the latter half of the Beyaz product name, further suggests that Beyaz side effects are similar to those of Yaz.

Thus, when Melissa Williams passed away in 2007 from a series of pulmonary embolisms while taking Yaz, the doomed woman might well have also been taking Beyaz; such are the blurred lines that separate the two contraceptives.

Melissa’s family believes that “Melly,” as they used to call her, was felled by the drospirenone-based contraceptive she was taking at the time. While Bayer maintains its newer-generation birth control pills are just as safe as older contraceptives and carry a similar risk for blood clots, the presence of literally thousands of lawsuits suggest otherwise.

Beyaz birth control is one of the Bayer products that is thought to carry a higher risk for Beyaz blood clots than first- and second-generation contraceptives.

Meanwhile, as profiled in a release by the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN 7/13), the late Melissa Williams and her story moves the tragedy from a statistic to a more human perspective. Melissa, according to her sister Megan, was a vibrant human being who is no longer here.

Her family believes it was the drospirenone-based contraceptive Yaz, so similar to Beyaz drospirenone, that took Melissa from them.

“My sister Melissa (affectionately called ‘Melly’) was a fun-loving, quick-to-laugh, caring and generous soul. She was a forester, who loved to play in the woods and hug trees,” says her sister Megan in a profile of Melissa released by NWHN. “She was never a fan of doing her hair, and often wore a hat. A few weeks before she died, Melly went to New York City and saw Wicked - a song from the musical, ‘For Good,’ was featured at her funeral. In remembrance, I designed a hat that I would love to knit and be able to give to her, with a note that says: “Dearest Melly, because I knew you, I have been changed FOR GOOD! (original emphasis)

“We - my family and I - strongly believe that my sister’s death was caused by her birth control. She died of a blood clot - a pulmonary embolism. Designing the hat for her was part of my grieving process.”

The web page for Yaz and Beyaz drospirenone, as noted above, cautions that women over the age of 35 who are smokers should not take Yaz or Beyaz birth control. Melissa did not smoke.

“My sister was incredibly healthy,” Megan continues. “She was a collegiate-level athlete, a non-smoker who always used homeopathic remedies when available. She wouldn’t have taken anything she didn’t think was safe. I thought birth control was safe; she thought her birth control was safe. But, there were risks. We trusted the drug companies; we believed the drug companies. I don’t want anyone else’s sister to have this happen to them. I didn’t know, and many women don’t know, that these drugs are dangerous.

“Just because a drug is prescribed or available on the market does not necessarily mean it’s safe. You should not assume that a drug is safe; you should talk to your medical provider. And, I would also suggest talking to other women to find out about their experiences. Women have to make their own decisions about the drugs they take.”

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